ZIFFPAGE TITLEDominoes in a Row

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-01 Print this article Print

Dollar General opens two new stores every day. The secret isn't Miracle-Gro. Instead, there's a well-honed choreography of human muscle and precision logistics that sets up each new outlet in little more than a week. We take you inside what Dollar General

Dominoes in a Row

Months before a new store opens, a district or area manager must arrange for builders to prepare the site. Construction can include anything from ripping and replacing floor tile to installing a bathroom to cutting curbs outside so Dollar General's 53-foot tractor-trailers can maneuver through the parking lot.

When property managers at headquarters get word that construction is finishing, a corporate buyer orders two to five point-of-sale terminals online from IBM. Then IBM arranges to deliver them by Day 2 of an eight-day store-opening cycle.

The cash register order kicks off an electronic alert to Spacenet, the company that will provide a satellite hookup between those registers and Dollar General headquarters. A Spacenet installation manager receives an e-mail with the phone number of the new store. Knowing when the registers are due, he then schedules an installer to arrive at the new store on Day 4 or Day 5, replete with gear to make the links.

When physical setup of a store starts, a "setter" keeps the process moving as the on-site project manager. A setter's formal title is store merchandiser. His task is to deliver a just-in-time store, steering a crew of about 20 unpackers, stockers, sweepers and fix-it people.

Setters, also called "openers," erect shelves, install the point-of-sale registers, oversee the creation of the satellite uplinks, put up signs and put out merchandise. They coordinate deliveries from suppliers and technology vendors, test accounting software, handle inquiries from headquarters and sweep the floors when they're dirty.

"Each ball shoots another down the line," says New York setter Mark Rambus. "Bing, bing, bing. Cause and effect."

Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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